A few years ago, a friend asked me to crochet him a blanket with the Penn State logo on it. I’m ALWAYS a sucker for a challenge and I set out to find a way to do it. After a lot of trial and error with some graph paper, I came up with a suitable graph pattern.
Once I figured out HOW, I used the same concept to create the pattern for my love afghan. That pattern is available here as a ravelry download if you’d rather cut right to the chase.
I used the same technique to make a custom blanket for a boat.
And initial baby blankets.
And a wedding gift for my sister.
And a personalized afghan for an etsy customer.
Yeah. I’ve made a few, so…how the heck do you do it?
1. What are you making?
The first thing you need to do is visualize your concept. What are you making? What are the dimensions? Will it have a border? Now – make a sketch of what you have in mind. Add the dimensions. For example, let’s make 3’ x 2.5’ baby afghan with a granny border.
2. Consider the details.
I want the granny border on my afghan to be about 6” all around, so I added those measurements to my sketch. That will bring my central area to 24” x 18”. This will be my actual “canvas” size.
What’s going on your canvas? For this tutorial, I’m going to use my daughter’s name. How do you want it to look? There are tons of free fonts available, but the easiest way to start is to use basic block type letters. Consider the orientation. I want the name to be centered on this afghan, and I want to leave some space around the edges of the name so that it doesn’t bump right up against the border.
3. Crochet a sample swatch.
I like to stick with an ‘H’ hook and worsted weight yarn when I’m doing these types of projects because of the color changes. If you use a larger hook, the weave will be loose and won’t conceal the carried yarn as well. Crochet a single crochet sample square about 5” x 5”. Cut a piece of paper 4” square and lay it on top of your swatch. Count the number of stitches across the top of the paper, and the number of rows along the side. I ended up with 11 stitches and 13 rows for a 4” square.
4. Calculate your stitches and rows.
Going back to my sketch, I see that the afghan will be 24” x 18” BEFORE I add the border. (Width in inches/4) x number of stitches across your 4” swatch = the number of stitches across you’ll need, in this case (24/4)x11 = 66 stitches. So, to start your pattern, you’ll need to chain 67 stitches, and then work 66 sc across the chain.
Now for the height – (Height in inches/4) x number of rows in your 4” swatch = total rows, or (18/4) x 13 = 58.5, rounded to 59 rows.
66 Stitches, 59 rows – this is the total size of the “canvas” area.
5. Make your graph.
There are two ways to do this. If you have graph paper handy, tape a few sheets of it together. I prefer to use Excel and resize the cells into little squares, that way I can add numbers along the edges so I know exactly how many rows and stitches I have at a glance – in this case, 66 wide x 59 high. I resized the cells to 15×15 pixels and formatted them with the dotted line outline. I reduced the margins, changed the layout to landscape, and set it to print on a single page. If your afghan is larger, you’ll want to set it to print on several pages and tape them together or risk going blind looking at those tiny squares. Each square represents one single crochet.
Print out your graph.
6. Chose your font and print your wording.
I like to create my word in Photoshop because I usually have to manipulate and stretch it to fit. Thicker, bold fonts work well. Remember – you’re essentially drawing with little boxes, so if you use a very delicate, curly font, you’ll see a lot of distortion and pixilation when you actually crochet it. For this example, I used Garamond font and increased the font to fill the page. After I printed it, I went around the edges of the letters with a marker to make them a little thicker. My printer also decided to run out of ink, hence the messy fill job with a marker.
7. Trace your pattern onto your graph.
For this step, line up your graph paper on top of your lettering. Be sure to leave some space around the edges so that the word isn’t scrunched too close to your border. I like to leave a minimum of five stitches or five rows on the sides, top and bottom. Once you have it positioned to your liking, staple the pages together so that they’re not sliding around. Use a pencil to lightly trace the outside edges of the letters onto your graph paper. You might have to hold the pages up to the light to see through your graph.
8. Fill in your graph.
Now comes the tricky part. You’ll want to blacken the squares that are inside of the outline. For curves and angles, you may need to finesse it a bit to make it work. A rule of thumb that I use is that if at least half of the square is within the border, blacken it. I like to start in the center of the letters and work outward, making adjustments as I go. I use the outline as a rough guide and sometimes make little changes if something looks off.
And there’s your template!
Great! Now what?
Remember how many stitches across you had? I’ve got 66, so I’ll start by making a chain of 67 stitches. Single crochet back across the chain. This is row 1 of your pattern which you’ll work from bottom to top. As you come up into your pattern, you’ll be changing colors. Each box is a stitch, and the blackened boxes are your second color. When you come to the new color, work your stitch as normal to the last step, then drop your first color, pick up your new color, and finish your stitch. Continue sc until your next color change. Crochet over the TOP of the old color so that you can carry the yarn along under your stitches so that it stays hidden and you can pick it back up at the next color change. Once you’re done you can add the border of your choice to finish it.
UPDATE – August 30, 2013
Thanks to Pinterest, I’ve had a ton of interest about this post and lots of questions. I decided to make a video which shows how I do the color changes as well as how I carry the yarn. You can find the video here -
I’ve since also added the alphabet graph pattern to my crochet shop. I includes all 26 capital letters already graphed out for you. You can find it at hookaholicpatterns.etsy.com
I’m also going to address some of the questions I’ve gotten here:
Your blankets are beautiful! I would love to make one. The directions are going right over my head. lol. when you switch colors, do you tie the new one onto the old like when making a regular blanket? Or do you just start crocheting with the new color. Thank you.
I never tie any of my yarns – it makes an unsightly knot and weak spot. I work the stitch to the last step and then pull the new color through.
What do you mean “carry the yarn”?
I like to carry my main or background color from end to end, meaning that when I come to an area where I need to change to another color, I work OVER the yarn which essentially conceals it, locks it under the stitches and carries it along until I’m ready to use it again. I generally only carry this main color to avoid adding bulk and weird puckering to the blanket.
I am sitting here with my graph and my swatch. I’ve crocheted the first several rows. Now I’m up the to color changes and I’m having a freak out moment over turning my work. I’m assuming you never turn? Do you work left handed to go back acrosd or do you fasten off and start back over on the right side every time? Hoping this isn’t a horribly dumb question. Thank you in advance for your much awaited reply!
You absolutely turn your work! When you first start your graph, you’ll begin in the lower right hand corner of the chart and work to the left. When you get to the end of the row, turn your work and then work the next row of the chart from left to right.
Steph- any chance your Penn State pattern is for sale? My sister-in-law is an alumni, and I’d love to add that to a baby blanket for her baby on the way! Let me know, thank you so much!
Unfortunately, no. Due to copyright/trademark considerations, I would not be able to profit from selling the pattern. To be honest, I didn’t save the graph from the pattern. :(
I am having trouble when it comes to making a chart to make a longhorn for the Texas Longhorns. Do you use just regular graph paper like you can get at Wal-Mart? If so, it just doesn’t seem to be enough squares for me to make the graph. I am making a very large blanket…about 10′ x 8′, so I need a big longhorn. Lol.
You could use regular graph paper if you have some. If you need more squares, just tape a few sheets together until you have enough for your chart.
Looks awesome! Thank you for the information.. I have a question.. In the sample you have 6 lines but have written 13 rows.. I’m confused. Please excuse my ignorance.
What you’re seeing is actually two sets of stitches – one going one way and then the other above of it when the work is turned.
Would you graph a custom pattern for me for a charge?
Depending on the pattern and how complicated it is, I would need a few hours to create a pattern, and transfer it into Excel to make a PDF file. Because of the cost consideration of time involved, I am not currently taking orders for custom patterns.
Hi am try to do a blanket using a graph my blanket is going to be all black with a oakland raiders logo on it and so i was wondering if i should do the whole blanket in single crochet or should i do hdc.i need help.
Well, that depends. Keep in mind if you make the graph using perfect squares and then decide to do your afghan in hdc, you’re going to distort and stretch your image as hdc stitches are taller than sc stitches. If you use an Excel spreadsheet to elongate your stitches, then yes, you can make it in hdc. Several of my afghans are done in hdc because I like that they’re faster to complete. Just my preference, but I do have some others that are done in single crochet. You’ll be able to get a more detailed image with single crochet.